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Francisco Trincão analysis: What could he offer to Barcelona?

Anurag Agate

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Header Image by Pedro Correia via Imago

Braga’s tricky and gifted right winger Francisco Trincão will be arriving to Barcelona in the summer, and thus in this player analysis we review his profile, playing style and what he could add to the Catalan squad.


On 31 January 2020, Barcelona announced the signing of Portuguese forward Francisco Trincão. With a release clause of €500 million and a transfer fee of  €31 million, it’s clear that Barcelona have a lot of faith in the 20-year-old. He is one of the most promising Portuguese players currently. With rivals Real Madrid recently signing many young wingers such as Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo, Barcelona have a clear aim of getting a reliable enforcement for the future in the form of Trincão. In this analysis, we take a look at what Trincão has to offer Barcelona and if Catalonia is the right destination for him.

Player overview

Francisco Trincão is a forward who plays in the Portuguese Primeira Liga as a right winger or as a striker. 2020 has been his breakout year and his performance has reached new heights since Barcelona announced his signing, only strengthening the club’s faith in this signing. Trincão started out at his hometown club, Vianense SC.

Leaving his hometown, he had short spells at Porto and Braga. He made his debut for Braga B in 2016 and went on to score 6 goals in 46 appearances. His record for the national team is impressive with 10 goals in 18 games for the Portuguese U19. For Custódio Castro’s Braga team, he has really done well. He has scored 6 goals in 23 games, true, but his 6 goals along with 3 assists this season have been in just 17 matches out of which 10 he didn’t even start. His performance has improved since having more eyes on him due to the announcement of him signing for Barça.

How Trincão fits in the current system

Playing for Castro’s Braga side, the young Portuguese has most often played as the right-winger in a 3–4–3. He is given plenty of freedom to take the opposition head on and dribble frequently. Braga have had some problems in the managerial positions, but the 3–4–3 system implemented by Amorim is being varied on by his successor Custódio after the former was approached by Sporting and he left Braga for the capital. In this system, the wingers are given freedom to attack with overlapping full-backs. Though the team has been somewhat susceptible to counter-attacks, they maintain their possession football and Trincão is the one benefitted the most by this.

Francisco Trincão Braga analysis Barcelona

As the right-winger in this system, Trincão’s starting position is fairly wide. He has the freedom to move inwards a bit, and has the responsibility of tracking back when he gets dispossessed. As we can see from his heatmap, he drops back a lot when the team is defending and his physique which is tall at 184cm and stronger than it looks, he often dispossesses the opposition. Thanks to this, his team is able to maintain shape and can rely on him to provide support.

Following a possession-based style, Braga also look to attack on the counter rapidly. The pace and dribbling of Trincão allows him to be a major asset in these scenarios.

Offensive capabilities

Trincão has racked up impressive numbers recently. With 1 goal every 127 minutes and 3 assists in just over 1100 minutes. That equals around one goal contribution every 90 minutes. But how does he produce these?

One of the things that benefits him the most is his experience playing as a striker. This has allowed him to develop an eye for goal leading to him ending up in really good positions in front of goal. In some scenarios, a winger and striker have different instincts. Let’s take a look at an example here.

Francisco Trincão Braga analysis Barcelona

Here, we see a teammate of Trincão’s looking to supply him with a pass into the box. Trincão has two choices here. One is to stay back and receive the ball just inside the box and use his magical left-foot to curl it in. But there’s a chance that the player marking him will be able to block the shot and if not, one of the defenders outside the box may arrive while the 20-year-old is yet to settle on the ball and destabilise him. Nonetheless, thanks to Trincão’s eye for goal, he uses his excellent pace to drive ahead of his marker and calmly pass the ball into the net. This striker’s instinct is something that has helped the Braga forward to score goals so efficiently coupled with his physical abilities of a winger.

Francisco Trincão Braga analysis Barcelona

Something that the Portuguese lacks is vision. He is more of an old-fashioned winger who takes up majority of the right side. Many time he tends to miss his teammates’ runs. However he makes up for this with his ability to provide accurate cutbacks. His technique to improve accuracy in this is the work of years of experience against defenders in the final third. When near or in the box as shown in the image, he is always looking for an option as we can see. His strongest asset here is his pace and acceleration. He draws one defender close to him and with a burst of space bounds forward. Now the second defender has to cover his shot opportunity as a rebound might fall to a Braga player. This is when Trincão pulls it back and his teammate slots it in. This is what makes his pace arguably one of his strongest assets.

Jack of all trades

The young Braga player has a sense of responsibility when it comes to defensive duties and keeping possession. After one of his best performances, his coach called him to say he had been impressed by Trincão. What impressed him the most was how Trincão immediately started pressing after gaining the ball back. Here, we have an example of his sense of responsibility and how it helps his team. The 20-year-old is by no means short or frail and this allows him to shield the ball well and not go down easily. Here, Francisco made a run with the ball towards the central parts of the field and he was pressed upon by two opposition players. He almost lost possession here, but his determination helps him. He shields the ball really well as we can see. The opposition players have no way of reaching him without fouling him or giving him too much space. Trincão swivels his body and catches the opposition by surprise and then his pace allows him to nudge the ball forward and proceed into threatening open space.

This example illustrates just how useful his determination and shielding abilities are. These have a tactical importance as well. In many systems, the winger not only has to have attacking capabilities but also defensive. In Valverde’s system, Brazilian winger Malcom was expected to track back and help in defence and his lack of ability in that field was reportedly one of the reasons why he didn’t impress the now ex-blaugrana coach. Trincão would have no problem in systems needing a winger to have defensive capabilities. This would also allow him to play as an attacking midfielder with inverted wingers allowing him to maximise his pace and acceleration while not giving up possession easily as can happen to a number 10 when isolated from his teammates. 

The Barcelona way

Trincão has some attributes which seem to be the kind that would help him fit into the positional play at the Camp Nou. His current system with overlapping fullbacks means that he won’t be out of place as a winger at Barça. Apart from this, his striker’s instinct and past experience means he could play in many positions. He could be deployed as a striker but to make the most of his abilities, he would be best suited to play in an inverted front three as a right winger. Of course, the right wing is only one man’s domain at Barcelona, Messi, but with Leo dropping deeper with his age, a pure right winger like Trincão is at a huge advantage with one of the best passers of the ball ever to supply him.

❛ Trincão will mark an era at Barça.
I’m sure ❜

Antonio Salvador
SC Braga president

The Portuguese also tends to hold on to the ball longer than he would be able to at Catalonia. He would need to make more one-touch passes and quick decisions. The risky dribbles down the right wing would no longer be useful as frequently ads at Braga. His pace becoming not as useful as earlier would likely be the biggest detriment for him when he joins Barcelona.

There are some things which each player needs to change about his game when they come to Barcelona. Many players have done it successfully and Francisco has the determination and discipline to do so as well. From what we have seen so far, Trincão has the potential to be a key player at Barcelona provided that he alters his mould a bit.

See also

Self-confidence, the greatest weapon of Martin Braithwaite

• André Onana: excellent, promising, and unneeded for Barcelona

• Junior Firpo: second chance or not?

• Barcelona and Matthijs de Ligt: a second saga incoming?

18, living in India, obsessed with Barcelona and Spanish football. I am into football in any form: watching, playing, reading about, writing about...In particular, I'm very interested in youth football, especially La Masía. I try to learn more about the tactical side of football as well.

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Analysis

Who are FC Barcelona’s hardest workers?

Samuel Gustafson

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Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

Work rate is a crucial element in a successful football side, but which Barcelona players have put in the most effort this season?


While FC Barcelona has always been renowned for their technical ability and tactical intelligence of its players, their work rate on the pitch has also played a key role in the club’s greatest triumphs.

The concept is simple, but that does not detract from its importance. Players who track back to win the ball, make bursting runs to create space and passing angles, and constantly apply pressure out of possession are incredibly valuable.

While it may be impossible to quantify a player’s effort with full accuracy truly, the available data can still reveal some prominent trends. With that in mind, which Barcelona players put in the highest amount of work rate statistically?

Offensive effort

First things first, time to establish a methodology. Using data from FBRef, the dataset will be filtered down to outfield players who have played five or more 90’s in one of the big five European leagues in the 2020/21 season. That means each player has at least a decent sample size under their belt, so there will not be anyone with only a few ten-minute appearances off the bench.

Then, which metrics can be used to quantify effort best? With the data available, it seems like the most viable option is to try and identify box-to-box players. For that, we can use the different areas of the pitch in which players take their touches.

Each player’s percentile rank for touches per 90 minutes in the defensive penalty area, defensive third, middle third, attacking third, and attacking penalty area was found. The average of those five percentiles became each player’s “attacking average.”

These averages were then scaled between 0 and 100 for the final “Offensive Coverage Rating.” This is how the top five came out for all clubs:

  1. Raphaël Guerreiro (Dortmund) – 100
  2. Jordi Alba (Barcelona) – 97.5
  3. Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain) – 94.3
  4. Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich) – 92.7
  5. Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid) – 92.4

Elsewhere in the top 20 are names like Andrew Robertson, Reece James, Luke Ayling of the intense Leeds United system, Ander Herrera, and Frenkie de Jong. There seems to a solid set of players who work their way up and down the pitch, either down the flank as full-backs or as energetic centre-midfielders.

How does the Barça squad stack up in particular?

barcelona work rate

As previously mentioned, the full-backs are the main standouts. The never-ending stamina of Jordi Alba is especially on display. Frenkie de Jong sits as the top non-full-back by a solid distance, reflecting his ability to drop deep in the buildup and provide dangerous runs forward.

A bit lower down the list, though, things start to look a bit weirder. It should be noted that this methodology can be a bit biased towards centre-backs. They rack up many touches in the defensive penalty area, defensive third, and middle third in a possession-based system, and the additional touches they get in the attacking penalty area off of corners and free-kicks can drive their scores pretty high.

Looking at Antoine Griezmann and Martin Braithwaite all the way at the bottom brings up another limitation. While we can track players who are active in many different areas of the pitch, we can not do the same for players who move and work a lot in the same area.

Watching Braithwaite and Griezmann definitely shows how active they are making runs in behind or across the attacking third, but because they do not drop off very often to pick up the ball, they rank low in the team.

However, those top names prove this offensive coverage metric is able to quantify box-to-box play in possession. Additionally, incorporating defensive metrics will clean things up even more.

Defensive effort

On the other side of the ball, the process is very similar. The same players and methodology will be applied, only this time with pressures instead of touches.

StatsBomb, who collect the data displayed on FBRef, define pressure as, “…applying pressure to an opposing player who is receiving, carrying, or releasing the ball.” These pressures are just broken down based on the thirds of the pitch, not the penalty areas too, so only three metrics go into each player’s “defensive average.”

Once again, those averages are then scaled between 0 and 100, creating the “Defensive Coverage Ratings.” The top five performers in these ratings were:

  1. Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro (Lazio) – 100
  2. Mikkel Damsgaard (Sampdoria) – 98.1
  3. Leonardo Bittencourt (Werder Bremen) – 98.1
  4. Morgan Sanson (Marseille) – 98.0
  5. Maxence Caqueret (Lyon) – 97.2

Midfield workhorses like Fred and Adrien Silva, along with high-pressing forwards such as Diogo Jota are common throughout the rest of the top 25.

Given that Barcelona are a possession-heavy side, and one that often presses at a lower intensity, one would expect these defensive work-rate ratings to be a bit lower. Still, though, which players stand out?

barcelona work rate

Pedri comes out as the clear leader. Impressively, the teenager’s score is one that would be respectable in any side. Let it serve as just another testament to his work rate and ability to perform a variety of different tasks on the pitch.

With Sergio Busquets in second, even as he ages, he is still one of Barça’s most active players in terms of closing down the opposition. In third is another newcomer, as Sergiño Dest’s tendency to press aggressively puts him much higher than most of the other defenders in the squad.

The tallies for the other members of the backline are quite low because they defend in a more reserved nature. This can also be attributed to the fact that Barcelona give up fewer opportunities than many teams.

With both of these two ratings in place and some solid results for top-ranking players, it is time to combine them.

Overall

Here in the endgame, we will be combining all eight metrics to create one “Overall Coverage Rating.” That means touches in each third, touches in both penalty areas, and pressures in each third are all included. This way, we can see the players who cover most of the pitch overall.

barcelona work rate

The top five is comprised of:

  1. Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund) – 100
  2. Ander Herrera (Paris Saint-Germain) – 99.3
  3. Bruno Guimarães (Lyon) – 97.6
  4. Lucas Vázquez (Real Madrid) – 96.7
  5. Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain) – 96.2

Idrissa Gana Gueye, Dani Carvajal, Joshua Kimmich, Renan Lodi, Arturo Vidal, Maxence Caqueret, Ezgjan Alioski, Pedri, Reece James, Mason Mount, and Mateusz Klich are among the top names as well.

Now, for the final Barcelona squad rankings:

barcelona work rate

The numbers still involve the same intricacies as those discussed for the separate offensive and defensive ratings, but at least the top five names seem to match an eye test evaluation of the squad.

Pedri has joined the team and impressed everyone with his work rate and movement. He will track an opposition runner back to the defensive third, win the ball, combine in midfield, and then get forward to be an outlet for Messi.

While not as youthful and agile, Busquets still serves as a metronome in the possession and an active defender. He will move and reposition to rack up touches in the deeper thirds and engages in defensive duels very often.

The right flank has been slightly ignored at times this season, leaving Dest isolated, but the American always brings energy. He has all the skills and the mentality to be a great modern full-back.

Dest’s counterpart on the left, Jordi Alba, performs a much greater portion of his work offensively. His countless runs down the left wing have made him a key target for through balls and switches of play over the last few seasons.

Lastly, Frenkie de Jong backs up his reputation as an all-round midfielder. This season, the Dutchman is settling in more at the Camp Nou, and his surging runs forward to the penalty area have been awe-inspiring as of late.

Griezmann and Braithwaite are probably the hardest done by these metrics. However, their energy, work rate and volume of runs they can provide off the ball is noticeable when watching them play, and invaluable for Barcelona.

Final thoughts

There is no perfect way to quantify how hard a player works in-game, especially with these limited statistics. What this attempted to do, though, is focus on effort in terms moving to a variety of areas, being as involved in the match as possible, and doing so in different ways.

While not perfect, this methodology was successful in identifying some of the busiest players in the side. It should serve as a reminder of the value these players, like Pedri or de Jong, can offer beyond even their brilliant technical ability.

Given that 32-year-old Sergio Busquets and 31-year-old Jordi Alba were also near the top, it is a reminder of the potential replacements the club will be forced to make eventually. How long can these two continue to exert energy at this level? Could younger players be doing even more in those roles? How will Barça fill those holes when they move on? These are questions that need answering.

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